I bought this book as a joke, an afterthought, just because I’d already spent twenty minutes in the dusty Prenzlauer Berg used book store where the salespeople were playing Warcraft in the corner. “Kinski’s always good for a laugh,” I figured, and forked over my three Euros. Little did I know that the joke would blossom into a full-fledged obsession. I’d grown up with an idea of Kinski based mainly on the German TV shows I saw during the 80s: Gottschalk, talk shows. Whenever Kinski was on (and he seemed to be on a lot), he could be counted on to rave and rant and make a public spectacle of himself.

We watched Woyzek in high school, and it freaked me out. Since, I’ve seen Aguirre, Fitzcarraldo, Nosferatu, and countless of the two hundred B pictures, Edgar Wallace and Karl May adaptations he appears in, and Herzog’s mean-spirited My Best Fiend. Still, Kinski’s artistry seemed to consist of Kinski just being Kinski, a megalomaniac who could outcrazy everybody on screen because he was a madman offscreen, too.

No longer. I can’t say that I understand him after reading his outrageous, boundless autobiography, but at least it’s possible now to imagine what the world looked like from inside Kinski’s head. As he puts it, everything about him was too too: he felt too much, loved too intensely, reacted too quickly, fought too viciously; a raging, fucking, screaming beast of a man whose emotions were too close too the surface, whose appetites where too ravenous, who had no sense of proportion. Put him in a TV studio and ask him idiotic questions about his international success or the endless bad movies he appeared in, and he would show his disdain, question the intention of the hosts and refuse to answer. He talks too quickly and he pounces too early, but you can’t deny that he has a point.

Rewatch his films, and you can see it there, right on the surface: every twitch of his soul is written on an unbearably intense face, threatening, seductive, almost too alive. The agony, the joy, the madness–if our senses weren’t so dull compared to his, we would appear mad, too. It’s no surprise that before the backdrop of mid-20th century German mainstream culture, a creature as fearless as Klaus Kinski should seem completely nuts.

The book is full of sex and braggadoccio, endless stories of conquest after conquest; whores, actresses, chambermaids, nude dancers, Idi Amin’s daughter, nuns, on and on. There are also lists of his cars (Ferrari, Jaguar), houses (Avenue Foch, Via Appia), and the directors he turned down because they couldn’t meet his ever-rising fees (Fellini, Kurosawa.) There’s a gripping description of his abjectly poor childhood, life on the streets, and his experiences during the war (where he claims he tried to eat a live cow.) He says he picked his movies for the money only, but it’s hard to believe that this is quite true–the abuse he heaps on everybody he ever worked with suggests that he cared more than he let on. Apparently, Marlene Dietrich kept the book out of print before her death because he mentions her homosexual affairs. The final section of Ich brauche Liebe is mainly concerned with Kinski’s boundless love for his son Nanhoi. (Nastassja is mentioned rarely.) He doesn’t hesitate to use four or five exclamation marks at a time, and every now and then, he transcends every cliché and manages passages of startling lyricism and power.

Next: Kinski’s last film, Paganini, which he wrote and directed.
Other muckworld posts about Kinski:


In German:

You Tube offers endless Kinski freakouts. There are ready-made Kinski playlists, or you can search for yourself. My favorites:

  • Kinski on Münchenhagen – TV talk show in German, no subtitles. Great outfit and above-average discussion
  • Kinski Interview – he’s obviously right
  • Na Sowas! – Kinski with Thomas Gottschalk, with English subtitles
  • Kinski at Cannes – lashing out out reporters during a press conference
  • NDR Talkshow – Kinski makes it abundantly clear that Alida Gundlach’s body is the only reason he’s on the show. In German, no subtitles.

Finally: Kinski reads Villion. In the 50s and 60s, he filled sports stadiums doing these monologues. Here’s one of the most famous bits, “Ich bin so wild nach deinem Erdbeermund.”

[audio:01. Ich bin so wild nach deinem Erdbeermund.mp3]

[tags]klaus kinski, actors, artists, biography, autobiography, books, youtube, audio, sex, linkfest, german, 5 stars[/tags]